The challenge of our international economic world

28 Nov 2016

On 3 November at the British Embassy in Mexico City, a fascinating conference took place titled Latest trends in international trade and its effects on the policies of the countries. Mexico’s Current stance: Globalization vs Protectionism. The Mexican Chevening Alumni Association (MCAA) partnered with the LSE Mexican Alumni Association, PricewaterhouseCoopers Mexico (PwC), and the UK Alumni Association Mexico to deliver this conference. They brought together high profile experts on international trade to debate what is a hot international topic at the moment.

Under the guidance of moderator Dr Antonio Herrera, Vice President of MCAA, the experts shared their opinions with attendees from both the private and public sectors. It was a fully attended event, due to the tantalising prospect of engaging in such high level thought leadership.

Beatriz Leycegui Gardoqui, a partner at SAI Law & Economics, with previous experience in government, started the proceedings with her argument that ‘globalisation is unstoppable.’ Why? In her opinion, due to two revolutions that have transformed international trade: the revolution in information technologies (20th century) and the digital revolution (21st century).

But the argument did not ignore the challenges of globalisation considering that it has demonstrated being responsible for making the rich richer while making the non-rich poorer.

A later speaker, Jose Luis Roberto Zapata Barradas, Director-General for Regional and Multilateral Affairs of the Secretariat of Economy, spoke strongly against protectionism. Meaning ‘any protectionist measures, including tariffs, domestic subsidies to exporters, and non-tariff barriers which restrict imports in certain strategic areas.’ His position on international trade was clear: he is against any public policy which implies protectionism. He made a strong case that protectionist practices do not in fact enhance the productivity of the local market, but damage manufacturing processes, and hold back innovation.

Giving a differing view, Gerardo Vazquez Gomez, a senior Manager at PwC said ‘I am for the globalisation, yet the protectionism policies should be applied to assure certain national key areas to protect them from unfair business practices.’ To illustrate, Vazquez highlighted metallurgy and agriculture as examples of industries which should be sheltered by the Mexican government due to the high impact they have on the Mexican economy.

There were some final words from Olivier Evans, Deputy Head of Mission and Political Counsellor at the British Embassy in Mexico City rounding up this topic. He explained that the current social movements which result in results like Brexit or the Trump success, are caused by continued weaknesses in the liberal system, especially, globalisation. He concluded that the digital century and democracy bring challenges.

In the end, the biggest challenge is how to adapt to the new reality of this century. ‘The key is to not be afraid of changes,’ he stated.

For a more in depth summary of the conference, take a look at the readout.